LONDON ― U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was the latest cabinet minister to resign on Monday over Brexit negotiations, placing Prime Minister Theresa May’s grip on power in doubt just days before President Donald Trump is set to visit Britain.
The resignation comes less than a day after Brexit Secretary David Davis and his junior minister Steve Baker stepped down.
Why so many resignations at once?
May and her cabinet team spent Friday at Chequers, the prime minister’s country house, discussing Brexit policy. Davis slammed the agreement, which promotes a “soft exit” from the European Union versus a swift, clean break, as giving away “too much away, too easily” to E.U. negotiators.
“Perhaps, one side effect of my departure might be to put a little pressure on the government not to make any other concessions and I will keep arguing to say there is a better way to do it than this,” Davis said.
Johnson reportedly compared the promotion of the plan to “polishing a turd.”
Addressing Parliament on Monday, May told MPs that she and the two ministers were at odds over “the best way of delivering our shared commitment to honoring the result of the referendum.” A “responsible government” has to prepare for a variety of outcomes in the negotiations, “including a no deal.”
May elected Brexit campaigner Dominic Raab as Davis’ replacement, but concerns over her longevity persist.
What happens next?
May promised to deliver a “hard” Brexit when she came to power, but has since dialed back those aspirations following a loss of her Commons majority in last year’s snap elections.
Davis had reportedly threatened to resign several times over compromises that May sought with the E.U., only to back down at the last minute.
The slew of resignations could possibly point to members of Parliament demanding a vote of no confidence in May, even though her team is confident that their Brexit plan would pass if it gets put to a vote.
“Theresa May’s Government is in meltdown,” deputy leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson said. “This is complete and utter chaos. The country is at a standstill with a divided and shambolic government. The Prime Minister can’t deliver Brexit and has zero authority left.”
How will this impact Trump’s visit?
The ramifications that the resignations will have on this week’s working visit are unclear. Trump isn’t expected to directly address Brexit, nor were he and Johnson scheduled to meet.
Yet he and Johnson have shared a mutual affinity for one another, so his departure may put the already tenuous U.S.-U.K. relationship on even shakier ground, especially if May enters into conversations with Trump from a weakened position.